Dark Triumph was listed as one of the top 10 CD releases of 2006 by All About Jazz
see article here
"This is a mix of storytelling and music of the highest order, Ellingtonian in scope and magnificence, unmistakeably American, a tale that should be included in every school's curriculum. Cecilia Smith's Dark Triumph is a compellingly honest look at an underdog, an everyday person who overcame sadly imposed societal disadvantages to travel in spectacular fashion in her journey. A story of uplifting beauty; a masterpiece."
All About Jazz (read full review here)
"The project is a beautiful and up lifting story that is highly recommended for everyone. Dark Triumph, The Life of Victoria Lancaster Smith will inspire the larger questions to be asked, but in a way that is enlightening and entertaining all at once."
Jazz Review (read full review here)
"Musical tributes like this are a rare treat and when its as compelling and provocative as “Dark Triumph” it’s an utter coup of good spirits."
Smother.net (read full review here)
"Cecilia Smith comes up with some beautiful music throughout that tells the story and enhances the odyssey Miss Smith has taken. I found it powerful in subtle ways throughout in a true heart and soul way. . . . It becomes an experience that reminds us of the power of music and how underused that power is today with such dreadful formula junk that passes for music. Music is supposed to be about (and come from) the heart. This set and Victoria Smith’s life exposed so bravely reminds us of this at its best."
Fulvue Drive-In (read full review here)
Something About Mary Lou
Women's Jazz Gathering Hits a Festive Note as It Marks
Its 10th Year
"Though it ran for three nights and presented
scores of musicians in diverse settings, the 10th annual Mary
Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center
coalesced into one glorious hallelujah. If there was a recurring
theme, it could be summed up in three words: "Hail Mary
"Certainly that was the case at the Terrace
Theater on Friday night, when the Morgan State University
Choir, standing three deep and spanning the stage, joined
a big band in saluting both familiar and lesser-known aspects
of Williams's genius. The legacy of the pianist and composer,
who died in 1981, has always been a spiritual touchstone for
the festival performances, but this year it triggered a jubilant
celebration, the mood charged by secular and sacred sounds
"Vibraphonist, arranger and bandleader
Cecilia Smith saw to that. For the past five years she has
scrutinized Williams's scores, manuscripts and "found
parts" -- arranging, editing and adapting them for a
variety of performance contexts. Her research provided the
impetus for Friday night's multifaceted concert, featuring
the Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Big Band, led by Smith, and
the Morgan State choir, under the direction of Eric Conway.
When the two ensembles joined forces in the second half of
the program, the sheer intensity of their union was something
to behold, sounding dramatically unlike anything heard at
the festival in previous years. The performances of Williams's
"I Have a Dream," based on the Martin Luther King
Jr. speech, and her gospel anthem "Come Holy Spirit"
were particularly eloquent and exhilarating.
"The evening held other pleasures as well:
a solemn yet emotional solo performance by pianist Amina Claudine
Myers, the big band's rollicking rendition of Williams's signature
swing era classic "Roll 'em" and the small combo
arrangements devised by Smith that placed Williams's music
in a different, though not necessarily more contemporary,
light. Numerous soloists, including reedman Bill Easley, trumpeter
Tanya Darby and trombonist Benny Powell, turned in expressive
performances, as did vocalist Elon Robin Dixon, especially
during the world premiere of the evocative ballad "Ghost
"Pianist Geri Allen, appearing the following
night, also looked to Williams for inspiration. Collaborating
with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Mark Johnson, the Howard
University alum reinvigorated "Zodiac Suite," Williams's
mid-'40s opus. Allen asked the audience to refrain from applauding
until the end of the performance, the better to appreciate
the extended work's contrasting moods and still unmistakably
modern harmonic schemes. Evoking memories of Duke Ellington
and Art Tatum, the suite inspired a beautifully modulated
and utterly absorbing performance, juxtaposing luminous solo
piano balladry with rumbling echoes of blues, boogie and bop.
"Beginning Thursday night, the festival
presented a variety of mainstream jazz offerings. A trio led
by the young Japanese-born keyboardist Hiromi displayed an
exuberant, if hardly memorable, slant on contemporary jazz.
Agrazing Maze, a quartet featuring trumpeter Ingrid Jensen
and drummer Allison Miller, contributed a venturesome and
challenging acoustic set. The Kit McClure Big Band celebrated
the swing era music of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm
in both faithful and refreshing ways. Singer Rene Marie, a
frequent visitor to the Kennedy Center, capped the event with
a distinctive and beautifully sung program, highlighted by
a stirring, self-penned salute to Nina Simone.
"Punctuating the performances were two
awards ceremonies. Daniela Schaechter, who impressed judges
Billy Taylor, Trudy Pitts and Geri Allen with her compositional
skills and self-assured rendering of Thelonious Monk's "Four
in One," received top honors in the festival's first
annual piano competition. One of 80 competition entrants from
around the world, Schaechter will be featured at the event
"The founding members of Jazzberry Jam!
-- pianist Bertha Hope, bassist Carline Ray and drummer Paula
Hampton -- received the annual Women in Jazz Award. Along
with their band mates -- saxophonist Sue Terry and singer
Ulysses Slaughter -- the veteran trio delighted the audience
with an engaging performance that included yet another spirited
tribute to the festival's namesake.
"Standing next to her colleagues of nearly
30 years, Hope accepted the award with a mixture of humility
and humor. "This is going to be a marker for me in my
growth because I'm just getting started," she said."
— Mike Joyce, The Washington Post
"Fluid and flexible in style and technique...Smith
proves a versatile four mallet vibraphonist..."
"young player who really knows the instruments'
giants; bright and driving like
Hutcherson...hymn like dignity like Jackson...an airy bounce
"Amazing dexterity, warmth and insight."
Cleveland Free Times
"A talented stylist adept at conjuring
up a rich palette of colors."
"A resourceful, inventive player...real
artistry and real growth."
"Her touch and style yield a distinctive
sound that sets her apart from other vibists. Smith finds
a deeper groove, keeps things lightly swinging with her impeccable
sense of time! She excels as a leader! Certainly deserves
CD Rom Magazine